Making connections between island and inland ecosystems during my NOAA internship

‘Ia Orana, all! My name is Keanu. I am from Tahiti, French Polynesia, and I am studying at the University of Hawai‘i.  For my NOAA internship, I had the chance to work at the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), an estuary and State Nature Preserve on Lake Erie. My role at Old Woman Creek NERR was to collect, manage, and analyze data for the Phenological Species Monitoring Program. Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.​​ Studying the phenology of species helps us understand how climate change affects flora and fauna that live in Old Woman Creek’s ecosystem. 

A selfie-style photo taken by Keanu. He smiles in the foreground in his kayak. Two people are in a canoe in the background and smile for the camera. Everyone is wearing protective life vests and sun protection as they float among the lotus and lily pads on a calm sunny day.

Keanu Rochette-Yu Tsuen, a Hollings scholar, collecting data about muskrats alongside volunteers Rudy and Joli during his 2022 summer internship at Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve. (Image credit: Keanu Rochette-Yu Tseun)

Old Woman Creek NERR studies species that have large effects on the ecosystem (keystone species) and species whose presence can tell us about environmental conditions (indicator species), such as the tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), lungless salamanders (family Plethodontidae), and the common muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus).

My project focused on the potential impact(s) of muskrats on the amount of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, in Old Woman Creek estuary. This preliminary study aimed to investigate links between wildlife conservation and water quality goals in Lake Erie coastal wetlands. 

Keanu holds a clipboard in one hand and uses the other to lift up a door on the front of a wooden nesting box. The box is is mounted on a pole in waist-high vegetation.
As part of his internship with Old Woman Creek NERR's Phenological Species Study program, Kevin Rochette-Yu Tsuen collected data on cavity nesters. (Robyn Taylor/Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

Most of my previous research experience focused on marine ecosystems in island-systems. During my internship, I learned about issues associated with the conservation and management of coastal resources in freshwater ecosystems, such as those existing in the Great Lakes Region.

Three young adults in field pants and t-shirts that say "INTERN" above an Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve logo pose in front of a pollinator garden and building with block letters that read "Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Keanu Rochette-Yu Tsuen (middle) says that the other interns he worked with made his stay in Ohio even more enjoyable. (Janice Kerns/Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

Thanks to my fellow interns at Old Woman Creek, my stay in Ohio was even more enjoyable as I was able to travel around the state during our leisure time. I am very fortunate to have worked with Old Woman Creek NERR, and my experience will be valuable in addressing coastal management issues in Pacific islands where resources also are limited and proper management practices are essential for the well-being of the local community.

A headshot of Keanu.
Keanu Rochette-Yu Tsuen, 2021 Hollings scholar

Keanu is a 2021 Hollings scholar and environmental science major at the University of Hawai‘i.